What is SWIFT? A Primer for Non-Finance Folk

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been met with sanctions from the West, including exclusion of select Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system. But the concept of SWIFT is unfamiliar to most, and many more know it only at the highest level. As the news in Ukraine continues to unfold, here’s what you need to know about SWIFT, and why it matters.

What is SWIFT?

SWIFT is the Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. In the simplest terms, it’s the telecommunication system financial institutions around the world use to communicate with one another. Each financial institution has a code that transmits along with the transactional information to create a fast, secure connection anywhere in the world. In short, it’s a big part of what makes moving money around the globe happen.

SWIFT is for any international financial transaction. Banks, brokerages, clearing houses, asset managers, corporate treasurers, and more all use SWIFT. SWIFT is not a financial institution itself – it is the communication mechanism on which the thousands of financial institutions relies.

What is the impact of removing Russian banks?

Without SWIFT, transactions are slower and more manual. The inability to use SWIFT means financial transactions become more expensive.

But the excluded Russian banks could also move to an alternative system. SWIFT is the dominant player, but not the only one. In fact, China has its own system, called Cross-Border International Payments System (CIPS), and will likely generate new business from Russia because of the actions to revoke access to SWIFT. This could bifurcate global banking as some nations will favor CIPS and some will favor SWIFT. How that resolves is anyone’s guess.

For now, it means everything will get a little more expensive.

What does this mean to US financial institutions?

From a risk management perspective, banks must consider financial risk but also reputational risk in how they not only act, but in how they message their actions to their customers. It’s imperative financial institutions monitor the pulse of their consumers and assess the reputational impact of their overall decisions on consumer perspective. Time to ask your customers what they think, how they feel, and what they expect from their financial institutions in this time of financial war.

Do you have more questions?

I’m happy to discuss! Feel free to reach out to me at steve.mosshamer@thinkpiecepartners.com.

There are also great resources to read more about the topic:






Small Business Stress


Financial Services
Kip Brown combined his curiosity of human motivation with his financial services experience to fully interpret what small business owners think about non-traditional lending options and what a government agency can do to make the lending experience a more positive one.



A governmental agency had an interest in understanding the financial policies and practices that promote or impede access to credit for small businesses. Of particular interest was a desire to explore small business owners’ understanding and consideration of emerging, non-traditional lending sources. At the heart of this study was the need to intimately understand the unique stresses and problems associated with small business owners’ ability to access credit, and how these challenges impact motivation, preference and choice, especially around non-traditional (online) lending sources.



With over 30 million small businesses in the US, this study required that we talk with a broad and diverse group of small business owners.  We also needed to conduct this research within a methodology that allowed for interactivity as well as confidentiality. And, given these business owners’ varied schedules and hours, we needed to provide for as much participation flexibility as possible. To accomplish all of these needs, we recommended the use of online bulletin boards. The boards were segmented by current non-traditional online lending use to give us an in-depth understanding of how participants’ use and experience influenced their perceptions and consideration.



Using our knowledge of the category and the small business segment, we created an open and engaging participation experience for our panel. The online bulletin board platform offered multiple levels of interaction; the Moderator was able to point participants to online resources and offer opportunities for both breakout groups and individual discussions. The synergy it created was very similar to the synergy created in face-to-face focus groups with the added advantage that owners felt safe to openly discuss sensitive personal and business information based on the anonymity the platform provided.


Analyze & Advise.

The research helped clarify the reality that non-traditional lending options are both seductive and confusing. This duality, combined with a clearly articulated concern by owners that non-traditional lending options may be less secure than traditional options, gave rise to a series of recommendations that focused on creating higher levels of lender consistency around security, disclosure, and terminology. The end result was a high level of confidence among our client’s stakeholders that user needs had been heard and changes could be made to positively impact the lending experience for small business owners.


Find us at Forum 2022

Connect with the Thinkpiece finance team at the Financial Brand Forum 2022, hosted at the Aria in Los Vegas, November 13- 16. Let’s talk all things finance, and explore your research needs. Enter to win a fantastic give-away when you stop by our booth #953 to take a quick survey on finance research. We’ll also send you a copy of our report on survey findings at the end of the show.

Inflation, Trauma, and the Importance of Asking the Right Questions

“Trauma” can easily be used to describe nearly every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the tragic loss of life and lingering health issues to significant shifts in social discourse, political systems, and the global economy, the world is traumatized. And today, as both people and businesses navigated the ebb and flow of changing mandates and regulations, we’re all watching as inflation — a key aftereffect of trauma — grows.

This steady increase is concerning but is nothing new. The United States saw inflation in the late 1940s as the country transitioned out of wartime production from World War II. We felt it again in the 1970s (oil shocks) and more recently around 2008 (rising gas prices). Inflation is the economic result of national traumas, such as war, depressions, oil embargoes, and, as we’re all learning, pandemics. You could argue the current inflation is different. It’s global, its trigger is a microscopic threat, and there’s a significant lack of unity regarding how to navigate the turmoil. You could also argue that it’s not nearly as bad as those prior examples. However, these arguments are nothing more than speculation.

That’s not what you need. It’s not what customers want. And waiting for answers isn’t going to help. So, rather than playing a guessing game, it’s time to accept what we don’t know and start asking the questions that matter (hint: this involves turning to your customers).

Today’s Inflation is an Educated Guessing Game

Predictions from leading economists point to both continued inflation and dropping rates, with compelling arguments on both sides.

Inflation will last a while because…

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is slow and cannot mitigate inflationary forces.
  • Emotions are low. The “Misery Index” — currently at 10.8% — spiked for the first time since the oil embargo.
  • Housing prices are rising for renters and owners.

Or inflation may be transitory because…

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is calculated in arrears, uses outdated measurement methods, and undercounts online expenditure.
  • The underlying reason for inflation — too much money chasing too few goods — will shrink as the global supply chain heals.
  • Technological advances are a deflationary force, and innovation in the tech sector has not slowed.

But here’s the thing: Every historical episode is nuanced. We don’t have a 1:1 comparison. Yes, it’s important to predict and plan, but knowing what your customers need and want from you now is more important.

Stop Waiting for Answers, Start Asking the Right Questions

Definitive answers are unlikely, if not impossible, so start focusing on definitive action. Start identifying what you need to understand about your customers and your place in their world. For this to be effective, you must think big and small and look beyond the numbers. Consumer (B2B and B2C) behaviors are a direct result of how we feel, and the messages and information we received affect those feelings. First, start by understanding your customers’ overall next steps and behaviors:

  • In a post-COVID environment, what consumer behaviors are going to be influenced by inflation?
  • How does that differ from pre-COVID inflationary consumer behavior?
  • What commonalities exist between post-COVID and pre-COVID inflationary consumer behavior?

Then focus on what you can do to help regardless of which inflation prediction comes true:

  • What messages reassure skittish consumers to keep them supporting your business?
  • In the face of uncertainty, what does your business offer that can help?
  • What more do they need from you given the changing landscape?

We think of this as the transition from “what if…” to “so what?”. In other words, it’s important to imagine and plan for both inflation scenarios, but then you need to stop asking “what if…” and start asking “so what are we going to do now?” The only way to answer that question is to listen to your customers.

Sure, some of the answers may change in a year or six months or even less. But predictions on the economy will change, too, and there’s not much you can do about that other than watch, wait, speculate, and worry. We prefer action, especially when all you have to do is ask.

Patient Psychology


Bonnie’s extensive clinical background helps her engage with healthcare professionals as an equal and patients as an understanding peer. Learn more about Bonnie’s commitment to qualitative research.



A global pharmaceutical company launched a novel product to manage a chronic pain condition, but prescription rates were lower than projected. The client had several hypotheses regarding prescription, with two leading theories emerging:

Medication cost was prohibitive/insurance coverage was problematic
Physicians awareness was low and/or they were not mentioning it to eligible patients
However, research into the discrepancy between projection and initial uptake hadn’t been conducted. The client didn’t want to move forward with marketing or outreach initiatives without understanding the underlying issues.



We needed understand the psychological state of the patient before assessing factors which may or may not compel them to consider the medication. With this emotional foundation, we could move on to explore the affects of potential tactical barriers such as cost.

To accomplish this, a robust qualitative study was needed. A nationwide sample of patients was recruited, all of whom had awareness of the medication, but most of whom chose to reject taking it.

To offer the client usable insights, we knew we’d also need to understand the prevalence of the barriers—emotional and tactical—identified in the qualitative study. To accomplish this, a quantitative study was designed for use after the qualitative research was complete.



Through conversations with patients, we identified complicated and deeply rooted psychological reasons for rejecting the medication. Very few patients hesitate because of any practical reasons such as cost. Rather, patients wait until they reach their own personal “breaking point” with their pain before accepting the need for the medication. The condition and treatment affect intimate aspects of a patient’s life, including libido and reproduction, so many choose to “suffer” with the pain. Similarly, many belive the potential for side effects are not worth the risk.

Physicians consistently offer the medication, but very few advocate for it or provide adequate guidance. They leave the decision entirely up to the patient, causing them to feel overwhelmed and frozen not only by the disease, but also how to move forward with it.


Analyze & Advise.

Increasing prescription rates is about more than overcoming tactical barriers. Rationally, patients understand the risks and rewards of medication but are not compelled to pursue treatment due to the personal nature of the disease and the emotion behind treatment decisions. Though every patient experience is unique, the qualitative research revealed common threads while the the quantitative portion of the study allowed us to better prioritize action by highlighting the prevelance of these experiences.

To increase patient uptake of the medication, several key recommendations were made to the client:

Revamp advertising to convey the patient’s worthiness of having pain relief – that they do not have to live with pain any longer. Bring their breaking point to them.
Reassure patients about side effects. Pain relief and improved quality of life are worth the risk of usually minor side effects. Make the risk/benefit case clear and easy to understand.
Develop a campaign to turn prescribing physicians into advocates. Help them see how the medication will improve patients’ lives.

Cloud Choices



John’s 20 years of experience as a software engineer allows him to understand a project’s technical depth while building peer relationships with every client and respondent. Learn more about John’s commitment to qualitative research.



A leading technology company wanted to understand the decision-making process for enterprise organizations evaluating cloud providers for their critical infrastructure. More specifically, they wanted to understand who makes recommendations and decisions surrounding the move.

The client had theories about this process and needed these theories confirmed or corrected. The long-term goal was for them to better understand who they needed to target when marketing their services and solutions and what may be needed or evaluated in the process.



Rather than setting out to only assess our client’s existing theories, we sought to conduct a landscape study to better understand the perspective of those working within enterprise organizations. The research was designed to allow respondents to organically build a map of the process that would, as a result, confirm or refute the existing theories.

This approach would help generate a natural view of the process without potentially altering responses.



Letting respondents lead us through the decision-making processing encouraged more natural conversations and, as expected, shed light on who specifically recommends and/or evaluates potential cloud providers. Using our knowledge of both the technology itself and business operations, we followed respondents through recent projects, from genesis to production, while listening for significant decision makers and moments of change.

This process gradually helped the client understand the accuracy of their theories but also allowed the respondents to paint a picture without pre-established borders.


Analyze & Advise.

The research allowed us to build an influencer model with profiles of the various roles participating in and/or running the process of migrating to the cloud. We were able to identify the evolution of the cloud deployment process and show why many enterprises deliberately deploy to one cloud provider initially but later redeploy to another. However, the non-restrictive nature of our research enabled us to take this understanding one step further by building models that corresponded to unique organizational structures and purchasing / technology decisions that extended beyond cloud migration.

From more traditional, top-down organizations to grassroots companies with a less linear process, our models provided clarity, so our clients could go to market with greater confidence. This model is still applied today when making major strategic and tactical marketing decisions and has been proven accurate in many subsequent research studies with this client.